My Adventures with Mandalas!

The most common question I’m asked when people are presented with my mandala deck is: “What is a mandala?” The word mandala is a Sanskrit word that means “circle.”  Sanskrit is the primary liturgical language of Hinduism and Buddhism. Within Hinduism and Buddhism, mandalas have long history as a meditative and spiritual practice. The term is of Hindu origin and appears in the RigVeda, which is a collection of Vedic hymns. In that context, mandala is used to describe what we might call a chapter in a book or a round in a song. The universe is believed to originate from these hymns. So a mandala is part of original creative universal power. The sand mandala in the Buddhist tradition is a way to impart Buddha’s teaching and attaining enlightenment. Mandalas have been, traditionally, given sacred and profound meanings.

My first exposure to mandalas was not in any spiritual perspective – it was in an artistic endeavor. The circle motif for an artist can be intimidating. That made it a prefect assignment when I was in college studying fine art. Most media that artist work with are not round, so eventually, you will have a lot of open (blank/white) area. Making friends or coming to terms with these open areas is part of learning to be an artist. The understanding that this blank space (often called negative space) is as important to a piece as the areas the artist works with is something most artists learn. As my first attempt at dealing with a circle motif came early in my learning, I was still making friends, so to speak, with this idea. This was to be my first visit with the idea of the mandala. Though it was certainly not my last.

My next exposure to a mandala came when a friend told me of an event happening in my town. The Buddhist monks were creating a sand mandala at the local museum of fine art. I did not get to see the process of actually creating the mandala. That viewing came much later, after the birth of YouTube. It was after that website came into being was able to watch the process. I did, however, get to see the finished piece. It was bigger than I expected 5, 6, 7, or 8 feet across. It had such incredible detail and precision. It blew my mind that this amazing piece of art was made out of sand. Out of sand! It was amazing to me. It was also humbling to know of the dedication and commitment that process would have taken the monks. I was to learn later that after creating these amazing pieces over the course of many days, that the monks, in what I’m told is an amazing ceremony, scoop all the sand up into a pile. Then in a procession they take that sand to the nearest body of water and release it into the water. For them this process is about the process and ceremony. It is certainly not about the result.

Fast forward many years. I was in a place with my art and creativity where I was feeling stuck. I had not created on a regular basis in many years. It was also at this time that I was exploring my place in this world in terms of my spirituality. I was exploring my beliefs and practices and discovering what this looked like for me. In October of 2009, I began a training to be initiated as a Modern Day Priestess. At my first weekend I felt called, drawn, towards the mandala again. On the first of November I began a journey that was to last 4 months. I did an average of one mandala a day for that period of time. It was amazing, incredible, and meditative for me. It supported me in reconnecting to my art and my creativity, and helped me begin to find my own spiritual voice. It was such a healing process for me that I want to share. Thus, the mandala meditation deck was born.

In love and light